2011 Cardinals Top Prospects by Level

St. Louis Cardinals top 40 prospects by predominant level of play in 2010 compared to past years.

One area about which I had made a note to take a deeper dive during this year's post-top 40 St. Louis Cardinals prospect countdown analysis was to study the level of all players year-to-year, not just the top ten. That is the purpose of this article.

I captured the predominant level of play for the top 40 players in each of the last four years based on at-bats for position players and innings pitched for pitchers. This information is presented in the tables below.

Position Players 2011 2010 2009 2008
Total 23 21 18 19
Memphis 5 5 4 2
Springfield 6 6 5 8
Palm Beach 2 3 2 2
Quad Cities 5 0 2 3
Batavia 1 5 1 0
Johnson City 2 1 2 2
Gulf Coast League 2 1 1 2
DSL/VSL 0 0 1 0
Pitchers 2011 2010 2009 2008
Total 17 19 22 23
Memphis 5 5 6 3
Springfield 3 3 6 5
Palm Beach 0 6 3 5
Quad Cities 3 2 2 6
Batavia 3 2 4 3
Johnson City 1 1 1 0
Gulf Coast League 1 0 0 1
DSL/VSL 1 0 0 0

First, note the consistent shift of balance over the last four years from pitching once having been predominant in the top 40 to hitters having taken over that lead. (In 2008, two extra position players were shoehorned into the top 40 during the countdown due to a winter trade (David Freese) and a Rule 5 addition (Brian Barton).

The number of top 40 members at the highest two levels of the system, Triple-A and Double-A, remained identical from last year to this, both among position players and pitchers at 11 and eight, respectively.

There was a brief Memphis-Springfield pitching spike in 2009, perhaps due to the inclusion of four pitchers traded shortly thereafter – Jess Todd, Clayton Mortensen, Luke Gregerson and Mark Worrell. Chris Perez would have been another, but had already graduated to the majors.

In the position player table, I highlighted a big bulge of five players, first in Batavia based on play in the 2009 season (indicated in the 2010 top prospect list) then moving up to Quad Cities this past season.

Niko Vasquez
Under further review, three of the five players are the same, all infielders – first baseman Matt Adams, shortstop Ryan Jackson and third baseman Niko Vasquez. The other two on the 2011 River Bandits either completely leapt over Batavia, as in the case of catcher Robert Stock, or played there only briefly, outfielder Rainel Rosario.

In the pitchers data, what caught my eye was the goose egg for Palm Beach this year. With Roger Dean Stadium known as a pitchers park in a pitchers league, the Florida State League, our 2011 list was the first one in at least the last four top 40's in which no Palm Beach pitchers were recognized.

There were six Palm Beach hurlers on our list a year ago, yet the 2011 numbers above Palm Beach did not change. Where did the six go?

Scott Gorgen
Scott Gorgen and Adam Reifer remained in the top 40. Nick Additon, Casey Mulligan, Richard Castillo and Scott Bittle, who was an arbitrary Palm Beach assignment on my part since he has yet to pitch in a game since being drafted in 2009, all dropped off. Perhaps this is a good reminder to cast a bit more of a skeptical eye toward performances in that league.

An increase in top 40 pitching prospects this year was seen at both Quad Cities and Batavia with a total of three now at each level. All are very promising names in the Cardinals' mound future. The Quad Cities three are Shelby Miller, Deryk Hooker and Joe Kelly, followed by Seth Blair, Jordan Swagerty and John Gast just below at Batavia. Blair and Swagerty are ex-Arizona State teammates taken 46th and 75th overall in the 2010 draft.

We'll close the series (again), this time with the 2011 top 40 by name, rank and level. Note that five of our top 11 have yet to play an inning of full-season ball.

2011 Top 40 (rank) Position Players Pitchers
Memphis Craig (7) Lynn (3)
  Descalso (8) Sanchez (4)
  Anderson (12) Salas (14)
  Hamilton (20) Walters (25)
  Henley (36) Ottavino (32)
Springfield Carpenter (6) Reifer (13)
  Chambers (15) Kopp (24)
  Kozma (17) Samuel (35)
  Luna (22)  
  Hill (31)  
  Jones (37)  
Palm Beach Cruz (16)  
  Pham (19)  
Quad Cities Rosario (30) Miller (1)
  Adams (33) Hooker (18)
  Jackson (34) Kelly (27)
  Stock (39)  
  Vasquez (40)  
Batavia Longmire (21) Blair (10)
  Swagerty (24)
    Gast (28)
Johnson City Taveras (11) Jenkins (9)
  Stanley (26)  
Gulf Coast League Cox (2) B Martinez (38)
  Garcia (29)  
DSL/VSL   C Martinez (5)

To reference the entire list of top 40 Cardinals prospects for 2011 and read about each individual player, click here. You can also learn more about each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections and much more.

As always, our full top 40 prospect lists from each of the last six years can be accessed via links permanently displayed at the lower left of our homepage.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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